Friday, 30 July 2010

"O Come All Ye Faithful...!"

The library will always be an important part of any educational institution (and not just there). We do not need to advertise that we exist but rather what we can offer to our users showing them that we are keeping up with latest developments not just gathering dust on shelves with well matured, falling apart volumes. The great thing about all new information technologies is that applications like all the 23Things, which we are exploring now, are free or very cheap (I am not talking about the cost of equipment or internet access). Even the smallest and poorest library is able to advise its users what is available online and how they may use it (people have their own computers and are connected!). This is then the simplest way of promoting libraries - promoting our services/help/advice in using what's available on the world wide web dot . Mind you, we are promoting somebody else's inventions!

However, what would we not do for our customers! Let others earn bucks, we may earn some respect!

Where and how to do it?

At first thought, Facebook should be the first choice. It seems to be the most popular site for social networking. Having the official library Facebook account for many institutions is, I believe, already an important place where they post their ads and information, millions of links to more information, promote their services with words, pictures, slide or video shows. There is no need even to produce their own illustration. Too many are already published and free to use (creative commons licencing). All these can be just as easily be used and applied on the existing website of any library or institution. The website can be enriched and made more interesting by adding images from Flickr, SlideShare, YouTube and perhaps also with one's own extras. On SlideShare there are some very good productions, e.g on plagiarism. There is no point to produce a new piece on this subject, creating (even unwillingly) another plagiary, is there?
The first thing would be, however, to carry out a survey, to find out what our readers know and what they use out of the social media package. Are they familiar with any of the applications, are they willing to use Zotero and other Things and to follow our future Blog, Facebook or Twitter?The second step would be to advertise where to find the information about what services we offer. At this point the traditional library inductions, posters and leaflets might be a more convincing and encouraging way to promote our services instead of posting all these straight away online. However, not as long as all our users are not "ON"(line) and "IN"(Facebook). Also not if we are short in time or staff to provide full service online. Not if we do not have enough time to be able to talk to people face-to-face (not just Facebook-to-Facebook). That would be the bit called "Conversations", wouldn't it?

I liked very much the Illinois Libraries idea of Social Media Cards. Instead of on business cards, information about what and how is offered could be put on bookmarks displayed in "Take one" boxes in libraries. An attractive bookmark may also encourage people to turn away from computers for a while and read books for a change. It could also encourage readers to ask library staff "What is this LibraryThing, Zotero etc.?" or to search for information on inter/intranet by themselves.

What can we offer?

When we are already well prepared ourselves and have done our homework well (and blogged about it) we can offer training on how to use Zotero and some other Things which might be useful for our patrons. We may create a library account with all the favourites that might be useful for our users ("DO NOT DELETE OR ADD ANYTHING!"). Via Blog or Twitter we can encourage people to visit the library by advertising new purchases. We can make their lives easier by posting reading lists with proper citations, links to full texts of recommended articles and all the other online possibilities - full ZOTERO! However, there is no point to do all this if nobody uses it. Let's find out then what our users think. Survey! Definitely - survey first. New academic year is approaching - just the right moment for this.

P.S. Perhaps when on duty we should start wearing T-shirts with ads printed on them, like the one on the Flickr photo? Once a week? Once a term? On an induction day? Not a good idea? Perhaps not.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Maestro ZOTERO

After finding out about Zotero, what can I say. I just wish I was born 30 years later! It was great to witness the first dog in space, the first woman there ("Valentina, oh Valentina!"), first men on the moon (even if it might not really have happened), the triumphant march of The Beatles across the globe. Those were the days! However, with all those interesting things happening around us (also with much more fun than young people have today, I dare say - Mamma mia!), we had to work really hard to collect and manage all the information needed to write a book, an article, a dissertation. I still have boxes of little index cards filled with all the information both needed and not to produce anything in written form. How difficult it was to find anything in the sea of all those index cards. Not to mention all those tonnes of bound, heavy volumes of journals I was carrying from the library to my office to search for those references. I did not like studying in the library back then. I did not know what my fate was going to bring.
But this was my "previous" life. Today it is goodbye to index cards, filing boxes and cabinets. Today there is Zotero, EndNote, Mendeley and probably much, much more. How able these programmes are! Easy collecting, managing, formatting citations. "Cite when you write" - how can anyone resist! How much time may be saved and used for something better than making notes, loosing them, trying to find them and ... making them again. Who knows, I might even start researching something. Perhaps I should write a book? Everybody apparently carries one inside them. If not me, definitely our students, at least those who are not afraid of computers, should be using help like Zotero. And it is our (library staff) duty (and pleasure) to tell them all about it. So let's explore more - let's work harder! With better results, I hope, than in Orwell's "Animal Farm".

P.S. The intriguing name ZOTERO has very interesting etymology.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Broken link

It is not easy to blog about something which one does not know much about. After having read all the recommended articles about the LinkedIn I was unconvinced about the benefits and other aspects of this social networking site. The home page encourages users to sign in by saying that being LinkedIn they stay informed about their contacts and industry, it is easy to find the
people and knowledge to achieve one's goals and finally it helps to control one's professional identity online. One of the arguments which seems to predominate over the others is that through the site it might be easier to find a job. It looks a bit like having a CV online and an employment agent, except that it is free. This might not be so bad. It also seems to have a negative connotation and feels a bit cliquish, like supporting favouritism - if you are in you are fine, we will help you ("I know someone, and this someone knows someone else, who knows another someone who might be useful..." etc.), if you are not "in" you may be less likely to achieve much or even worse - you may be an enemy and should stay away. Perhaps it is a bit too harsh. At least all this is in the open. You are watched , but you are allowed to watch others too. There must be something in the LinkedIn if, as it is stated on the home page of the site, 70 million people have joined in. Will it be my missing link in the world wide web? Perhaps just a broken one in the net. It might be repaired when I am convinced. But not today. I am staying out.

Friday, 23 July 2010

To be or not to be ... on Facebook

The answer to this dilemma is obvious - BE THERE. At this point I am, because it is one of The 23. I did not join the site straight away though, being a little afraid of becoming too involved. Hearing stories about Facebook and observing my daughter, rather active there (and who would feed the cat, hoover the carpet or tidy up her room?), with all these mixed feelings about it, I have finally given in. What convinced me eventually was a story I heard on the radio about a child who could not wish a happy birthday to his grandpa because grandpa was not on Facebook! I would not like to disappoint my future grandchildren! And the result of my joining in has been even worse than I expected. On the first day I spent one or one and half hours on it, on the second day - most of the evening. Today I have been on and off for the most of the day. And night. I had even been chatting and exchanging messages with my boss! During working hours! Addictive. Like Flickr and the LibraryThing, and Delicious and... and...and... No end.
My facebook account is more personal than I at first planned when opening it. Seconds after signing in I was offered to become a friend of my friends, and of their friends and of some well known people whom I might have heard about. So I have enthusiastically joined the game, and collected lots of pictures in my friends gallery including those of Jeremy Clarkson, The Beatles (who is running their site?) and even of some interesting, controversial politicians. I had slight trouble though with finding the 23 Things Cambridge on Facebook. However with a little help from family and friends this problem was sorted (I just did not read the instructions, missing a bit about joining the Cambridge network first). So at the moment I am enjoying seeing friends and their pictures, reading their posts and chatting a bit too. I even managed to send Birthday wishes to my niece (my
friend now) on time, otherwise the greeting card sent in the usual way would be, as always, too late. My daughters are my friends now too! I hope it will stay this way. Another benefit of "belonging" to this newly evolved species of Homo facebookiens (not L.) was getting the invitation to the 23 Things closing ceremony. Thank you! I will be there (if I don't get stuck at Warsaw airport in case, touch wood, another volcano decides to erupt, like what happened to me in April).

Facebook and libraries. This is a question. Since such an enormous number of people are Facebook linked it seems to be obvious that it is an important way of communicating with present and possibly with future library users. Promoting our work and our collections, advertising new purchases, announcing events, answering queries or even chatting to people who might have an urgent need to ask a librarian (or a library assistant) seems very reasonable. All this, carried on from a strictly professional, special account, might be a full time job in a bigger library. At the moment in my workplace our users are being informed , at least we think they are, by email and via the intranet where library pages may be found. It is possible however
that more information would be getting to people if they could read it on their Facebook wall. Moreover it would get to them faster. Providing of course that everyone has an account. Many do, but have they all? Intranet access is open to all staff members and students, "allpeople" email is sent to all people. Facebook information would be available to Face-bookworms (no offence) only. As it is compulsory to have an email address, I suppose that having a Facebook account might be made compulsory too. Before this happens however, I intend to explore Facebook more thoroughly. Hopefully I will find more friends or maybe some long lost friend will find me? I have not covered my real face on the Facebook but here on Blogger I am staying the Revelation23, at least till the end of all things.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

LibraryThing (not a very original title)

Exploring the LibraryThing was the most interesting and exciting experience. I enjoyed it thoroughly. At some point, opening link after link, those recommended by the 23Thing team and many, many others, reminded me of Paul the Octopus (remember the recently finished World Cup?) - so many tentacles and something new along and at the end of each one.
I liked the statistics (Zeitgeist) and the LibraryThing recommendations. I learned that the most popular Polish writer (in English translations ) was Stanislaw Lem, predominantly the Sci-Fi writer, who created, among others, the famous Solaris. I was "told" what to read if my favourite (recently) book was The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (everybody should read it, it is great! - that is my private recommendation). I have also discovered a few titles which I would really like to read, e.g. "This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All" by Marilyn Johnson (one of the Recent Favourites).

I am happy to sign my name with both hands under the list of all the benefits which the LibraryThing may bring to its users. How easy it is, how cheap, how convenient for small libraries, especially today when authorities are talking about the possibility of volunteers running local libraries - no need to know MARC 21 or AACR
But... Yes, there is a but, or two of them. They appear mostly when private collections are considered. The first concern was would I be able to find a particular book even if it had the most comprehensive bibliographic record, the most beautiful cover picture and all the possible tags attached to it on the LibraryThing on My Library list if in my home collection books will not be kept in a particular shelf order. What's the use of knowing what I have if I do not know where I have it? Exploring the Thing I have found that I am able to add my own classmark or location where a particular book may be found. A note, something like "Under the bed in the spare room" or "In the bathroom for quick reference", may be placed in an extra column "Comments" added to the Display Styles. In a private collection however, with three or four (or more) people using it without library tickets and no librarian in charge, books may not always be returned to places where they were taken from. Still it might be good to know what we have collected for years (a bit like the Cemetery of Forgotten Books in The Shadow of the Wind) and perhaps to refresh not just one's memory but also their collection.

In one of the recommended articles I found a comment that LibraryThing reflects people's preferences in terms of what do they read or have in their libraries. Yes, it is true but only of these people who use this Thing. Those who have big and most possibly very interesting private collections would probably rather read books than sit in front of a computer and catalogue them on the LibraryThing. Sorry! This has probably been too sarcastic.

Nevertheless I like the LibraryThing, and might use it myself for cataloguing my private shelf contents in future. In future - because it will be rather time consuming and a physically laborious task (imagine - all these books will have to go off the shelves and then to go back, possibly in a more tidy order). Probably just the right job for a rainy summer (which we don't have this year), long winter evenings (which are not here yet) or for boring days of early retirement (which is not what the government plans for us). It would be interesting to find out what really sits on all these shelves and in cupboards. Cataloguing LPs, videos, CDs and CD-ROMs might be a separate project. I always say that there is no need to be afraid of being redundant when you are a librarian, even for those who are not professional.

P.S. I tried to search other sources (Search Elsewhere) to catalogue books in a foreign language. Unfortunately the libraries listed as available on the site were not responding. I will then have an extra job with manual cataloguing. But after all it is what I like the most of all the library jobs.

P.S. 2. On the list of local book stores and libraries for Cambridge I noticed the Galloway and Porter shop, which sadly does not exist any more.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Reflections and roses

Looking back at Things which I have learnt about thanks to the 23 Things programme, I would say that exploring every new Thing has been like jumping a mile long jump from where I have started. Just a few weeks ago there were only (or mostly) Google internet search, email and library e-resources (and Voyager of course) as my main internet activities. And now?! So many new things (Things), and one may say that each new thing was better than the previous. Some are real revelations. I even thought of changing my blog "stage name" to 23 Revelations instead of Revelation23.
Out of the Things included already in the programme, some will stay with me for good both for my personal and professional use, some might be used in future as shared accounts or sources in my library work (preparing leaflets, inductions, presentations), and some others I will re-visit only if I have to. Those I like the most are iGoogle, Google calendar, Flickr and I could say I am enthusiastic about them. To such an extent that I started spreading the word among colleagues, friends and family. And it is taking off!
The one which I don't have a heart for is Twitter. The others (Doodle, SlideShare) may be useful perhaps in future. I think that most of the above I will be using just for myself. I can see the possibility of sharing a calendar and with my colleagues. Especially shared might be useful. Our library team works in eight libraries at various locations using/sharing several office computers there. Having access to the same websites gathered in one account by all of us at different places would eliminate the present necessity of adding these websites to Favourites on each of these computers. I refer here to all useful links to the professional profile websites (libraries, e-resources, Library of Congress authorities etc.). Also a shared calendar is an obvious application to be used. Blogger is a Thing I do because I have to do to complete the programme. It could be satisfying to share thoughts and illustrate them with pictures (glory to the Flickr!). But it is also a great challenge. I have to write in a foreign language! Sometimes I think that something I have just written is wise or funny. When I read it again it sounds not right in English or silly. I must be thinking still in my native tongue and translating directly when typing. Blogger is challenging and frustrating at the same time. Perhaps a professional blog, created and run just for library needs and purposes would be easier to carry on with.
I am sorry Twitter and Blogger. I do not intend to offend you. You are just not my piece of cake. Having said that I am still looking forward to the next challenges. The start is a long way behind me and there is still far to travel.

And a final reflection. Totally out of subject but still a reflection. "Of all flowers, me thinks a Rose is best" (William Shakespeare, The Two Noble Kinsmen, photo by Revelation23 not on Flickr, the rose - my very own).

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Oh, it is so delicious!

Delicious is one of these Things which has a great potential to make one's life easier. Until recently I have bookmarked page after page, having already much too long a list of the Favourites on each and every computer I use (and there are quite a few, both at work and at home). Some bookmarks are repeated everywhere, some are completely different, many never opened since they were saved. Learning about this yummy program gives me a chance to tidy up all this. It will not happen overnight. Not during the exciting time of the World Cup, IB exams and results awaiting (a personal matter just completed with a happy end) and the presidential elections in my home country (my candidate has won, hurray!!!!!!!!!!!), not to mention never ending (almost never) stock taking and catalogue amending in our libraries. Stubbornly and systematically however, I am looking through all of my bookmarks, deleting a lot but also keeping a lot. Instead of writing down on numerous pieces of paper which then would probably be lost, I copy the addresses directly to MY OWN DEL.ICIO.US. And I will be able to access them from everywhere, even when on holidays somewhere far away from "my" computers. What can be better than this? The other advantage will be getting rid of many shortcuts which occupy lots of space on the desktops. My boss says that my desktop looks like a wordle cloud, but not sorted in any logical way (I thought it was , at least to me). But the end to this has just come. Now I will have just one shortcut - to, and perhaps to My Documents. And perhaps a few more. But not as it looks now.

Thanks 23 Things for Thing 12!

Of course, the other problem is proper tagging. Tags in my bookmark list have to be different to tags in the Revelation23 blog. These here are personal (iSelfish!). Those there have to take me fast to where I need to be. Probably most of us get upset when we cannot find what we are looking for when we search a telephone book or another directory. I keep thinking that some of these publications are prepared by people who never use them (just like hoovers which have attachments which are not doing their job or baby prams with net trays under the main carriage so all the rain water, mud or dust from the road can get easier to whatever is carried there - things invented by those who perhaps thought about many aspects when inventing them but not about how it would "behave" in real life). Hence my tags in my have to be such that I will know and REMEMBER what names I have given to all links. Also in this personal case of a personal account it would be probably wise if the names were rather universal, e.g. BBC news site should be called NEWS not a BLA-BLA (after all the content is not always a bla-bla). We plan to create a shared account at work so we would need to give sites the names that we all can then easily retrieve. For example a tag for the Library of Congress Authorities page should be HEADINGS, not DO-WHAT-YOU-ARE-TOLD, etc.

The advantages of knowing about and using this gadget are numerous. I like Who wouldn't? It is yummy!